United States President Barack Obama will host Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Friday in his Oval office - his first with a foreign dignitary in his second term - for bilateral and regional discussions with North Korean nuclear tests and South China sea dominating the proceedings.
"This meeting is a further symbol of the President's commitment to the US-Japan alliance as a cornerstone of US economic and security policy and that of US-Asia policy. And the two leaders will have the chance tomorrow to meet, to speak to the press and to share a meal together as well," Ben Rhodes, the deputy national security adviser for strategic communications, told reporters in a conference call on the eve of the meeting between the two leaders on Thursday.
The meeting underscores the importance of the US-Japan alliance as the foundation of US strategy in Asia, both in terms of the security posture and economic relationships in that dynamic and growing region of the world, he said.
Danny Russel, senior director for Asia, National Security Council said he anticipates that Obama and Abe will compare views on the bilateral relationship, including plans to further develop the strong security alliance.
"Obviously, out of necessity, they will talk about North Korea, the recent events and the overall situation on the KoreanPeninsula and in the region. I expect them to discuss maritime security issues, territorial claims both in the East China Sea and the South
China Sea as well as other Asia-Pacific regional issues such as continued coordination in global fora like the East Asia Summit and so on," Russel said.
Global hot spots like Iran, Afghanistan and North Africa would also come up in their discussion, he said.
"Throughout, President Obama will reaffirm to Prime Minister Abe his strong commitment to the alliance and to regional stability and cooperation, his resolve in the face of North Korea's provocations and the strategic priority that the president continues to place on the Asia-Pacific region, which is so important not only to the global economy but to America's future as well," the White House official said.
Noting that trade and investment with Japan already supports a million US jobs, Michael Froman, the deputy national security adviser for International Economic Affairs, said the two leaders are expected to discuss ways to deepen and broader direct economic cooperation in a way that's mutually beneficial for both the countries.
"That could include a review of the status of our consultations over Japan's potential interest in joining the Trans-Pacific Partnership. It's also likely that they'll touch on energy issues and climate change issues that they share in common," Froman said.
In the wake of the alleged Chinese espionage on US firms, cyber-security issues can also be mentioned in the discussion, he said.
Russel said that the US will continue in the future to have very strong defence relationships with Japan, South Korea and other countries in the region that will include military exercises and a range of other defence cooperation.
"The North Korean provocation only highlights the importance of those defence relationships and the importance of having a strong US presence in North-east Asia and in the region more broadly," he said.
"That too is, frankly, a reason why we have prioritised, for instance, in our defence budget strategy, the Asia-Pacific region in terms of the resources we allocate for our defence strategy, yet another reason, frankly, why we would expect and urge Congress to take action to avert the sequester, given the range of defence commitments that we have, including in Northeast Asia related to recent North Korean provocation," Russel said in response to a question.